130407 John 20:19-23

Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: John 20:19 – 23
Theme: Jesus Gives Us His Peace to Do His Work

How was your Easter celebration last weekend? Certainly it is my prayer that you had an enjoyable Easter day, with time spent with family. How was your week this past week? If you were on "Spring Break", maybe you had the chance to relax a little or do some traveling. How are you doing today, one week after Easter? Are you still filled with the same peace and joy that you had last Sunday? Or, have things happened this past week that Satan is trying to use to rob you of that peace and joy? As we read in the Gospel Lesson for this First Sunday after Easter, our risen Lord comes to us and offers you and me the peace that only he and his Word are able to provide. Our loving Lord gives you and me that peace not only to assure us that we are forgiven children of our Father in heaven, but also so that you and I are motivated and empowered to live lives of service in his name and to his glory. With hearts stilled filled with joy that the Savior's tomb is empty, as we continue to spread the Good News that, "He is risen! He is risen indeed!", the Lord of the Church gives us his peace to do his work. Listen now as I read a portion of the Gospel Lesson assigned for this Sunday. We read from John's Gospel, chapter 20, verses 19 – 23:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

This is the Word of the Lord.

The disciples of Jesus were having a hard time believing the reports they had been hearing throughout the day. They were told at different times and by different people that Jesus had risen, yet they failed to find the peace offered in that Good News. To calm their fears, to bring them peace, the risen Lord appears to them. We read, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' After he said this, he showed them his hands and side." And notice what the peace of Jesus immediately did for the disciples. We are told, "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." Sadness and confusion were replaced by joy. Fear was replaced by peace; peace which only the risen Lord is able to provide.

When we look deep into our hearts, and see our sins and sinfulness, you and I are filled with sadness and fear. We are saddened because we know that we have failed our Lord. We are filled with fear as we hear the holy and just God in heaven tell us in his Word that the soul that sins is the one that will die. And that sadness and that fear don't go away as we try to win God's favor by what we do or say time after time. That's because not one of our efforts are able to bring the peace which only the risen Savior is able to provide. So we come before the throne of God as we did at the beginning of our worship service this morning. On our knees, we plead for the Lord to have mercy on us.

And in response, the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, says to you and me, "Peace be with you!" Peace is ours to enjoy because it comes to us through the blood our Savior, Jesus; his perfect, innocent blood that he shed on the cross. All your sins are forgiven! The price has been paid in full! Perhaps your human reason is causing you to doubt what really happened that first Easter. Although you and I aren't able to see our Savior with our own eyes, or to reach out and touch him like the disciples did, yet through the working of God the Holy Spirit, who is working on our hearts through the Word of God, you and I believe in Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior. As Peter writes in the opening chapter of his first letter, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." Our risen Savior gives us the peace of our forgiveness, freely won for us by his innocent suffering and death and his glorious resurrection from the dead.
Not only did the risen Lord come to the disciples that first Easter night and offer them the peace they were searching for, but he also gave them work to do. We read, "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" Jesus gives the disciples a special gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the tool they would need to carry out his work; the work of proclaiming his Word. More specifically, Jesus says that he is giving them the power to forgive or not forgive sins.

This, as we teach in our Catechism classes and instruction classes, is known in the Christian Church as the "Ministry of Keys". The limited time we have for a sermon does not give us enough time to go into great detail concerning this teaching of the Bible. But it is clear what work we are asked to do.

As his followers, all believers are given the keys to the gates of heaven. On behalf of our Savior, speaking as his representative here on this earth, we use these keys to unlock the gates of heaven for those who show sorrow over their sins and are pleading for the Lord's forgiveness. To such people we share the Good News that Jesus himself would share with them if he were standing in front of them: "Your sins are forgiven because of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

But to those who fail to see the seriousness of their sins, to those who refuse to feel sorry for what they have done, to those who don't seek the Lord's forgiveness, it is our responsibility, again speaking on behalf of the Savior, to tell them that their sins are not forgiven.

Some ask how we are able to do this. "Isn't this a judgment on our part", they ask. In both these situations it is important to remember what is taking place: we are simply carrying out the work the risen Lord has given us to do. You and I are not making any judgments. You and I are not judging anyone's heart. We are simply speaking words of judgment that the Savior himself would say to the person if he were talking face-to-face with them.

There are times when you and I give into peer pressure, and we fail to carry out the work our risen Lord has given us to do. We give into the temptation of thinking that it is better "not to make waves" with a family member or friend, rather than clearly proclaiming what God's Word says is wrong. We find it much easier to hold a grudge against someone, rather than forgive them when they have come to us asking for our forgiveness. When you and I fail to do the work the Lord of the Church has given us to do, we do well to remember what would happen to us for all eternity if the holy and just God held a grudge against us. It would mean spending time that would NEVER come to an end in the flames and pain of hell.

So you and I come before our Lord this morning, confessing our sin of not always faithfully carrying out the work he has given us to do. And the glorious resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday gives you and me the guarantee that he won forgiveness of all of our sins. The risen Savior has opened the gates to eternal life in heaven. Filled with the joy and the peace that only the risen Christ is able to give you, be motivated to go about the work he has given you to do: namely, sharing his Word, by proclaiming the Law to show people their sins and their need for a Savior; by proclaiming the Gospel to show people their one and only Savior who lived, suffered, died and rose again as the full payment price for all sins.

You and I know that because of sin that ruined our God's once perfect creation, there won't be 100% complete peace in our lives until we reach the perfection of heaven. However, in the midst of any and all trouble, believers in the risen Lord are able to find peace. We enjoy peace offered to us by our living Savior. Peace is our gift to enjoy, knowing that our sins are forgiven through our Savior, Jesus Christ. You and I have peace, knowing that Jesus Christ lives! Our living Savior is in heaven, watching over us day after day. As the more God the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with this peace, the more you and I will be motivated and empowered to do his work. It is our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who says to each and every one of us here this morning, "Peace be with you!" Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
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